12. The Empire Strikes Back

Around the corner from where we were staying in Kyoto was a small antiques-y shop, and in the window was a bus sign from the area of Shropshire I grew up in: Oakengates, Telford Town Centre, St Georges, Hadley, Leegomery, Dawley, Wellington. It was really, really, weird. I started reflecting on how obscure Shropshire towns must sound exciting and exotic to Japanese antiques shoppers – or maybe they were there for ex-pats wanting to be reminded of… Shropshire? Seriously, most people in England can’t tell you where Shropshire is.

It made me think about where I grew up, and how I ‘d a conscious decision to not stay there, and how trapped I had felt as a young person, which are all pretty familiar feelings for lots of people, I guess. The thing is, I feel guilt having that kind of resentment towards a place that was safe and pleasant, in a part of the country where my family still live (they’ve moved a bit away). I never resented my family for living in a place that they had made their home, but I feel guilty about the intensity of my reaction; this is me processing these conflicts.

The base tracks of this are samples – bird song at Uno, the ferry port across from Naoshima, the beautiful art island which is like a living version of Jonathan Blow’s Witness; the “nightingale floors” which squeak and sing as you walk on them in Kyoto castle; and the sound of an automated mini-waffle maker in Nishiki Market, Kyoto’s most popular food street. The vocal was recorded on a train held at the station in Toyama. This was right in the middle of the Windrush Scandal, when the UK government was revealed to be deporting people who had entered the UK on the Empire Windrush in 1948*, an emblem of Britain’s supposedly positive and open attitudes to immigration, especially for those from the Commonwealth. I’m always slightly surprised when the British public doesn’t seem to give a toss for years about bad treatment, detainment, demonisation and deportation of migrants, but suddenly The Windrush is a sacrosanct point of entry and even the gammons lose their shit**. To use a term Nikesh Shukla coined, perhaps these are the Good Immigrants we keep hearing about.

I suppose what these strands have in common is leaving your place of birth and making a new life, and how different that is for different people. The title “The Empire Strikes Back” seemed apt, and the end of the song even has a nice Star Wars reference for you fellow nerds.

Next week, I’m confronted by a partner about why I am intent on keeping our relationship a secret.

*and subsequently

**I’m not sure the gammons did lose their shit. But even they couldn’t go against public opinion and declare this A Good Thing.

Pre order Year of The Bird, Volume 2 at https://palebird.bandcamp.com/album/year-of-the-bird-volume-2 this week and you’ll get the download of this track (and all previous tracks) right away, and the full album when it’s released on July 8th, 2019! Why not listen to Volume 1, too: https://palebird.bandcamp.com/album/year-of-the-bird-volume-1